Embrace Dissent

In recent issues of The Phillipian, alumni and students have expressed varying opinions regarding the recent visit of President George H.W. Bush ’42. We applaud the initiative of students, past and present, who contributed constructively to the conversation about a controversial political figure.

We believe that a respectful discourse should always be encouraged and is necessary for the development of informed and thoughtful opinions. Too often, however, the political dialogue at Andover can appear one-sided.

This problem has been evident in the lead-up to the 2016 presidential election. While many students and faculty who support liberal candidates and policies are vocal about their views, the conservative voice seems to be largely absent from the conversation.

Forty-three percent of Andover students identify as Democrats, while about 19 percent identify as Republicans, according to The Phillipian’s 2015 State of the Academy. Though the remaining percentage identified as “Independent” or “Other” the predominant political perspective on campus leans towards liberalism; the number of self-identified Democrats is more than twice that of Republicans. But we believe it is vital that students of all political affiliations feel comfortable expressing their opinions.

Both liberals and conservatives suffer from the lack of an open dialogue on campus. Conservatives can feel pressured to censor themselves out of fear of facing opposition from the liberal majority. Liberals, conversely, are less frequently challenged with contrary opinions and can be more likely to hold an opinion they have not questioned because they have never needed to defend it.

Andover offers students the opportunity to engage in meaningful, political debates, so we should not shy away from offering dissenting opinions. The seemingly homogenous political conversations we encounter here do not prepare us for the diversity of thought that we will encounter upon leaving the school. We should learn how to navigate such discussions without resorting to attacks on a person’s character. It is important that we allow ourselves a moment to think and respond instead of immediately turning to aggression.

Andover’s political discussions should include varying opinions and perspectives. In any serious debate, dissent is necessary for growth, and so we encourage every student, conservative, liberal or other, to express their opinions and add their voice to the conversation.

This editorial represents the views of The Phillipian Editorial Board CXXXVIII.